Politico New York

Updated 06/28/16 04:36 PM


PBA declares contract impasse, hopes for labor mediation resolution

By Gloria Pazmino

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch. | AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

After months of stalled negotiations, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch said his union is declaring an impasse with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration over disagreements between the parties to increase New York Police Department officer salaries and sign a new labor contract.

The union, which represents the NYPD’s rank and file officers, said Tuesday it’s asking the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to assign an independent mediator to resolve what they describe as a “deadlocked process.” PERB must first review the union’s impasse declaration before assigning a mediator.

“By declaring these negotiations at an impasse, we are taking the next step to ensure that New York City police officers — who protect the biggest city in the country every day — receive a rate of pay equal to other police officers locally and across the country,” Lynch said in a statement.

It’s not the first time the union has declared an impasse and requested a mediator.

In May 2014, as the union and the administration were in talks about contracts that had expired during the Bloomberg administration, the union declared an impasse arguing that the city would not agree to granting its members higher wages.

Lynch has long argued his officers deserve higher wages than what the city has offered, citing the difficulty of the job and the challenges of policing in the nation's biggest city. According to data provided by the union, officers in Suffolk County make 71 percent more in hourly wages over a 20 year career span than those in New York City. Officers in Westchester and New York State troopers make nearly 43 percent more, while officers in the city make 32 percent below the average earned by officers in the surrounding area.

“This is just another example of Mayor de Blasio and his administration not appropriately supporting our police officers, who, as a result, would leave the NYPD if they could,” Lynch said, citing a survey conducted by the union which showed 89 percent of its members would leave for a better paying law enforcement agency.

Mediator agreements are not legally binding and both parties must agree before arriving at a resolution. If the mediator cannot reach a consensus between the two sides, the groups then would move into “binding arbitration,” which is ruled by one of PERB’s independent arbitrators and is legally binding.

The union is hoping that declaring the impasse will help resolve disagreements during the mediation process, a union spokesperson told POLITICO New York. But by choosing to have a mediator rule over the process, Lynch is again taking a chance and risking that the union will end up in arbitration — a process that did not spell out success for the union last year.

The union’s chances to win in arbitration were severely diminished when other law enforcement unions agreed to the same pattern of bargaining that the city was offering — a raise of 11 percent over 7 years.

Freddi Goldstein, a spokesperson for de Blasio, said the city has continually tried to reach an agreement with Lynch and has offered a deal that would have included raises.

“Since taking office, we have tried again and again to work with the PBA to provide their members with a fair long-term deal with significant raises and benefits — a deal like the ones every other police and uniformed union accepted,” Goldstein said in a statement. “The PBA has been unwilling to negotiate, instead choosing to wage a political war and go to arbitration — again.”

In a response, PBA spokesperson Patrick Muncie said the city's statement "suggests they’re not entering into the mediation process in good faith."

When de Blasio took office, the city's entire municipal labor force was working without a contract. Since then, the city has reached labor agreements with 98 percent of the city's workforce.

Last November, an arbitrator ruled against the PBA’s request for increased salaries. During that process, the union mounted an intense protest campaign against arbitrator Howard Edelman, who reached a final decision to give officers one percent raises every year for two years, retroactive to 2010 through 2011.

Arbitration proceedings only cover up to two years at a time. The current contract would only cover 2012-2014 if the union moves into arbitration.

This story has been updated with additional comment from the PBA.